Willie Aames: the man behind the mask
By Kirk Noonan
At the beginning of Bibleman: Shattering the Prince of Pride, Miles Peterson — a man of status, money and influence — is standing in a slashing rainstorm with briefcase in hand. Lightning flashes and thunder rolls as he lets out a primal scream and falls facedown into a mud puddle. Writhing in agony, he notices a Bible partially covered in the mire.
"Then in his darkest hour the words of a single book began to change his life," says the narrator, as Peterson pulls a Bible from the earth. "And at last, Miles Peterson felt a burning desire to know God. Inspired by the Word of God and equipped with unyielding faith, Miles pledged to fight evil in the name of God as Bibleman."
Willie Aames, 40, who portrays Bibleman, had a similar conversion experience — minus the rain and mud. Aames, best known for his roles in the television programs Eight Is Enough, Charles in Charge and Swiss Family Robinson, had fame and fortune. But he, like Miles Peterson, did not have hope or peace until he met Jesus Christ.
"The only reason I became an actor is because I wanted to be accepted," says Aames. "I wanted to prove to the world that they had to deal with me."
While growing up in Southern California, Aames says he had been the runt of his family. He also felt out of place with one older brother a track star, another one handsome and popular, and his sister on an All-American drill team. "And then there was me," Aames says. "I was the small kid that never really did anything special and always got picked on at school."
Instead of withdrawing into anonymity, Aames used his feelings of inadequacy and insecurity as fuel to push himself beyond his critics. "When people said I couldn’t do something, I was determined to prove them wrong," he says. "That’s what drove my whole life."
Aames got his first starring role at age 8 in a Phillips 66 television commercial. Soon after, guest roles on television shows such as The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and Gunsmoke followed. In 1976, he started playing Tommy Bradford on Eight Is Enough and instantly became a teen-age heartthrob. Though he thrived on all the attention, happiness eluded him. "I was intensely afraid of everything," he admits. "And I was trying to figure out who I was. I wanted to feel loved and accepted — the same as any teen."
Finding no solace, he turned to alcohol and marijuana at age 13. Then he began using cocaine, Quaaludes and other hard drugs. As the years passed, his career never sputtered, but his personal life hit bottom. In search of deliverance from his addictions he joined a 12-step alcohol and drug rehabilitation program. In 1983, he guest starred on a cable television show. There he met Maylo McCaslin, a promising actress, who was also battling a drug addiction. The combination of Aames and Maylo proved to be a destructive mix. "One week we were sober; the next, we were getting high," Aames says.
One night as they cruised around Los Angeles, Maylo convinced Aames to listen to a preacher on the radio. "He made me laugh," says Aames, "and I felt like he was talking directly to me because everything he spoke of related to me."
Aames and Maylo decided to attend the pastor’s church. As soon as they entered the church, Aames got mad. "They wouldn’t let me smoke in the sanctuary because they said it was ‘God’s house.’ "
During the service several people shared their testimonies. "These people had done all the things I had done, but they had hope," Aames says.
That day, Aames and Maylo asked God to forgive them of their sins and made commitments to Christ as Savior. "When I accepted Christ, I felt accepted for the first time in my life," says Aames. "Our pastor assured us we were new creatures in Christ. We both wept because we realized that God was giving us a clean slate."
They left the church free of their addictions and hopeful for their future as Christians. Six months later, they were baptized and married at the church on the same day. They stayed in Hollywood, then moved to Kansas City, Kan., a decade ago so Aames could produce fishing shows and step back from the spotlight. They went to a smaller church and became grounded in the Word.
A few years after moving to the Midwest, Aames received a phone call from Gary Randall and Mike Schatz of Pamplin Entertainment, now based in Portland, Ore. Randall and Schatz told Aames they had his next big project: Bibleman. "I thought it was the worst idea I had ever heard. But after praying about it and seeking counsel from my pastor and Christian friends, I began to like the idea of Bibleman," Aames says. "I never pictured myself in children’s ministry, but every step of the way has been about obedience."
Today, 15 years after becoming Christians, the Aameses live in Portland with their children. Aames is the executive vice president of Pamplin and spends most of his time writing, directing and performing. This year Bibleman, an outreach for children, will bring its high-octane, state-of-the-art, live production to 130 venues. Last year more than 16,000 children and adults committed their lives to Christ at Bibleman outreaches.
"God is interested in our obedience," says Aames, who should minister to more than 500,000 people this year during the Bibleman tour. "He has a greater plan than we could ever hope for — I know that firsthand. That’s exactly what happened with me and the Bibleman ministry."
At Life Story Foundation, we are continually looking for inspirational stories that describe a person's life before and after they found their Christian faith. If you know of a Christian testimony story or video online, please email us the link so we can post it on our site.
Thanks for the link,
Life Story Foundation